Vulnerability to Vandals
A concern often heard regards the potential for vandalism. Although already addressed by conventional
transit systems (where repair costs are a small part of overall O&M costs), the following exchange fills in some details.
Forwarded Message --------
From: William B.
The ATN station proposal...
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2015 11:40:36
I've been intrigued by the paper you distributed at an
eBoard meeting a month ago, so I checked out many of the ATN web
pages on the idea. It's a beautiful idea, and in a world of socially
conscious people, it should work.
But - as the universal skeptic
that I am, here are my concerns - and I could not find them expressed
in the ATN web pages -
defense against vandalism is a big deal in America. Let's face it -
the public are slobs and and there are many vandals afoot. Look at
the VTA light rail stations. All are equipped with an escalator and
an elevator. Both have been the targets of vandalism of various
kinds, and often disabled. By having 117 stations, that problem is
multiplied, especially since the stations are elevated.
I worry about
vandalism of the cars themselves. Those beautiful new VTA light rail
trains were quickly marked up - windows scratched, seats marked up,
etc, I think mostly due to the open riding arrangement, with only
occasional ticket inspections. Installing web cameras I think helped
curb that. The stations are pretty brutal, after all their glassware
The VTA light rail
escalators go up, but not down. So if an elevator is disabled, or
really stinky - which it often is - the disabled riders are in a
BART has this
problem in spades, and is finding it really expensive to keep their
escalators in repair. They are being used as toilets, and a little
of that means a really costly repair and replacement problem.
One disabled ATN
car stuck on a track would disable much of the system, backing up
everyone for miles. One clever vandal could quickly figure out how
to disable a car, laughing as the system clogs up a whole line,
making everyone mad and disgusted with the system.
America seems to be full of vandals,
litterbugs and slobs, compared to certain other nations. When Jean
and I river-cruised through Germany, I watched the riverbank glide
by for hours, and never saw a single beer can, plastic bag, bottle
or paper litter. The trains and stations were free of graffitti.
Until we can somehow curb this social problem, we are going to be
stuck with the consequences.
However, I'm fascinated by the recent progress in
driverless cars, especially as more cars go electric. I really think
that in a decade, the bulk of the cars on the road will be automated.
This will not only make it possible to increase the density of
traffic on major arteries, but be a boon to those of us unable to
carry a driver's license.
I also expect to see driverless
public cabs operating well enough to make it feasible to just not
bother owning a car. You would just order one through your cellphone
a few minutes before you have to make some errands, it would arrive
in your driveway, you use it, then you release it to the pool! That
would also alleviate the problem of finding parking downtown, since
you would just release the car, asking it show up later to pick you
When enough people adopt such a scheme, the number of
cars on the road should drop dramatically, easing road congestion and
The accident rate caused by driverless cars is
already orders of magnitude below that of human driven cars, and that
translates into safe transport, lower costs overall, cheaper
Driverless cars would be free of the
vandalism problem, since a disabled car would not obstruct other
traffic. The use of a public car would require a credit card, so the
system would always know who used it when some damage is noticed by a
There's a certain fear of being attacked in a
public railcar, without a good way to escape. That would disappear
with driverless cars - should your car show up with an uninvited
passenger, you would just not get in, and signal the police instead -
the car could be tracked or disabled, making an arrest easy.
Existing roadways can continue to be used - no need for a big
bond issue to build a special elevated or rail system.
cabs should be considerably cheaper than current cabs, making it
feasible for low income families to enjoy good transportation, paying
for it by the trip instead of taking out a big loan on a car or a
pickup truck. (Of course, that also means unemployed cabbies, who
would have to find some other way of earning a living).
licenses would likely disappear, except for those that insist on
owning and driving their own car. Or for the wealthy, who just has to
have a ten car garage for his toys.
-- William B.
you for taking time to actually investigate ATN/PRT. Few do.
have outlined two major concerns: vandalism and the potential of
robocars. Here is what I wrote for the
which is included in O&M, can be reduced by the inclusion of
video cameras at each station and user-to-system control
communications in each cab (so problems can be promptly reported).
driverless vehicles are expected to become a growing percentage of
cars on the road over the next decade or two, they won't solve our
congestion problems. Yes, they reduce the need to own an automobile.
Already, we see cabs, Uber, and Zip Cars increasingly being used for
transportation and to share ownership. However, driverless vehicles
don't reduce the number of cars on our roadways. Because they could
become ubiquitous for many who cannot currently drive (due to
handicaps, license restrictions, or lack of car ownership), they may
slightly increase the number of cars on our roads. More
significantly, however, is that robocars will frequently move around
without any passengers after dropping off one passenger and driving
to pick up another. In those areas where our roads are already
congested, an overlay of ATN can help many more people get around
easily without adding to the congestion (and possibly reducing
specific responses to your vandalism issues address escalators,
urination, and number of stations multiplying vandalism
stations will generally be small and simple, with stairs and
inexpensive elevator. Stations (and extra guideway) cost about
$500,000 each. So, escalator maintenance is eliminated.
urination, I would leave a quart-sized wide-mouth plastic jar with
lid at the station so socially-conscious people could urinate into a
container if need be. (I carry one in my car and use it in the back
seat occasionally. Or is that TMI - too much information?) However,
since local governments are unlikely to take that option, people
needing to relieve themselves can PRT to one of the stations that
actually have a bathroom.
As for number of stations and cabs
multiplying vandalism opportunities, yes, no question about that.
However, mitigations are possible with video cameras at each station
and user-to-system control communications in each cab (so problems
can be promptly reported). Your point about robocar users being more
responsible because they are identified through their credit card
could also be applied to ATN/PRT usage and complimented with
seems to be full of vandals, litterbugs and slobs, compared to
certain other nations." That social problem can be reduced by
treating people as humans rather than cattle. Specifically, as the US
becomes a more socially just, environmentally sustainable, and
spiritually fulfilling country, the number/percentage of vandals,
litterbugs and slobs will go down. Until then, they may appreciate
the service level of conveniently located stations with awaiting cabs
ready to take them away (and not let them sit around angrily waiting
for the next vehicle to arrive). That appreciation of personal
vehicles, better service and a clean, quiet ride will likely reduce
abuse. Let's at least try ATN/PRT to find out what the vandalism
level actually is here. Or, we can check with Morgantown to see what
their level is.
enough people adopt such a [robocar] scheme, the number of cars on
the road should drop dramatically, easing road congestion and
parking." As mentioned in the Robocars section above, I doubt
that congestion will go down - and expect it to go up.
disabled ATN car stuck on a track would disable much of the system,
backing up everyone for miles. One clever vandal could quickly figure
out how to disable a car, laughing as the system clogs up a whole
line, making everyone mad and disgusted with the system." First,
I have never heard of such an incident happening with the few
operating systems, even at the Morgantown system that has been
operating for 40 years carrying mostly college students. Next, most
PRT systems have at least enough back-up power to take them to the
next station in the case of a power failure. Some systems include the
option of another cab pushing the disabled cab to the next station.
Assuming that a vandal (or act of God) actually disabled a cab on an
elevated guideway, only that loop or link is affected. The rest of
the network will continue operating. That is why some folks refer to
PRT as a physical Internet. If a link fails, traffic just gets routed
roadways can continue to be used - no need for a big bond issue to
build a special elevated or rail system." I see a trend of
roadway maintenance costs growing while ATN/PRT guideway costs
shrink. At some point, road maintenance will likely exceed guideway
maintenance costs on a per-mile basis. And, remember, that you and I
are paying for the widening of Montague Expressway in Milpitas to
handle demand. Milpitas also needs a $75M expansion of the
237/Calaveras Blvd. bridge over the RR tracks.
a certain fear of being attacked in a public railcar, without a good
way to escape. That would disappear with driverless cars - should
your car show up with an uninvited passenger, you would just not get
in, and signal the police instead - the car could be tracked or
disabled, making an arrest easy. " The fear of being attacked
also disappears with ATN/PRT for the same reason. And if someone in a
cab needs to be apprehended, the system operators could route that
cab to the local police station (one of the 20 stations proposed for
again for taking the time to investigate ATN/PRT. If your concerns
have not been resolved, let's continue the discussion. Otherwise, I
invite you to join others (including Dave Cortese) in helping fund
the first step:
Forwarded Message --------
Rob Means <email@example.com>
Re: The ATN station proposal...
Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:08:25 -0700
I've embedded my
It looks wonderful. Wondering if there's a major installation of
something like this as a publicvehicle?
Amusement park rides and air terminal transport don't count, since
there's a lot of policing and very rapid repair of problems there,
plus really effective measures against a criminal or vandal attack
against the system.
degree of security from vandalism are you looking for? Remember, BART
stops running if a vandal removes a one-foot long section of rail or
someone commits suicide on the third rail. Either will cause the
entire corridor to stop operating. Are you looking for a higher
in-service measure than BART? In the case of a PRT loop in a
high-density area (as I am proposing), I imagine most vandals would
be dissuaded by good lighting, video cameras, and frequent passers-by
in PRT cabs that can observe station activity (aka "eyes on the
street"). After that we look at vandal-resistant materials and
designs. However, until we put something in the field, we can only
guess about the level of vandalism and the potential disruption to
operations. BTW, you are not the first to bring up these issues which
have, to a large degree, been addresses in the various designs.
is still mostly a railroad, with a single track, so when one car
fails and can't be moved, it locks up a complete loop, causing a lot
of consternation and delays for the travelers.
all you say is true, what does it matter if that only occurs once
every 10 years? Yesterday, a 20-minute drive took me 90 minutes
because the 280/101 interchange was shut down due to a threatened
suicide. I hear it was not the first time. So, perhaps the question
really is will PRT service level meet or exceed the service level of
buses, LRT, BART, airport APMs, and roads? Due to the simplicity of
the physical designs (electric motors, simple switches, clean and
smooth "road") combined with preventative maintenance, I expect
service level to exceed what we are accustomed to.
a rapid response repair crew could handle such problems quickly is an
issue - what's the engineering behind that? For example, the system
may need a standing crew with a special truck that can drive to a
trouble spot and physically pull the car - with passengers - off the
track, get them to an alternate station to continue their ride,
releasing other cars. Some serious damage to a track is another story
- consider the hit BART is taking now, trying to replace thousands of
deteriorated rail beds.
you seem to be expecting a failure level far higher than what has
been demonstrated for the past 40 years at Morgantown, WV. Rare
emergency efforts may be called for , but certainly will be planned
driverless cars, yes, the overall traffic would probably be a bit
larger. On the other hand, a lot more people could then live in high
rises with minimal garage space, cutting the cost of the building and
increasing density. Both work to reduce the need for cars on the
street. Los Angeles is such a mess because it's all spread out, with
huge parking lots, too many cars, too many "ranch style"
homes, etc., and no effective public transportation. SF, Boston, New
York, Paris and other major cities offer high density living without
having to own a car at all, and driverless cars would provide some
cost advantage over human cabbies.
don't discount the value of driverless cars, and expect they will
grow to dominate the field of both private and public cars (at the
same time that electric drive systems do the same). You may have
heard that Tesla is already offering conversion kits. As for traffic
congestion in Los Angeles, I have hears that it is not due to lack of
density, but rather too much car subsidy ("free" parking) and
poor public transit.
reading of public transportation of any kind is that - realistically
- it has to compete in convenience, reliability and timeliness of the
agree. That's why an ATN that covers many square miles makes so much
sense. Like big-city transit, one can easily walk from home to the
nearest station, immediately (no wait for vehicle) ride non-stop to a
destination station, followed by a short walk to the door. That
door-to-door time is critical, and it's likely to be quicker using
ATN than a car. The fact that the rider gets extra personal time
in transit is frosting on the cake.
we could somehow get half the commuters in San Jose out of their car
and into one of the many buses running around half empty, the bus
service could be offered every ten minutes at any stop, and the lower
traffic means they could get around faster with less delays. Shoppers
should also be encouraged to have their stuff delivered, maybe with a
driverless car, then they don't need a cart for grocery shopping,
We can get half
the commuters out of their cars. And we've known it for 10 years.
Here's the paper that outlines how adding PRT to the mix makes other
transit options better - enough so that half the commuters to the
Stanford Research Park are willing to leave their cars at home:
the Muni system in SF is electric, so they've already got a pretty
good solution there, except for the traffic jams and delayed bus
schedules from all the private cars!
that is a service-level degradation that ATNs don't endure. And ATNs
cost about one-third the price of street cars (now called LRT).
all for higher taxes on the purchase price and tuel for gas/diesel
cars, restricted lanes, less parking lots and garages, and make all
that more expensive. Put the money into a lot better and frequent
public transport. In the end, it's a political issue, not an
engineering or economic one.
what I've been saying for a decade. ATN/PRT is not an engineering or
financial problem, it is strictly a political problem.
why don't you toss your hat into the ring for another SCCDC talk on
transportation? Might have to be next year, given we've just heard
from Rod Diridon on HSR.
am happy to speak about ATN to anyone willing to listen. BTW, Rod was
"off track" in saying steel wheel on steel rail is the most efficient
system because the biggest factor − by far − is the wind
resistance, not rolling resistance.
Rob Means, Secretary
1421 Yellowstone Ave, Milpitas, CA
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